For Immediate Release: May 1, 2018
Contacts: Office of the Governor: Ofirah Yheskel, Ofirah.Yheskel@governor.virginia.gov | Department of Environmental Quality: Ann Regn, Ann.Regn@deq.virginia.gov

Virginia Rejects EPA Proposal to Weaken National Standards for Coal Ash Disposal

RICHMOND – In written comments to Administrator Scott Pruitt, the administration of Governor Ralph Northam urged the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) today to refrain from any regulatory revisions that would weaken the protections afforded in the existing federal Coal Combustion Residual (CCR) Rule. Furthermore, Virginia went on record that the Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) will maintain its stringent program for regulating coal ash despite any changes in the federal rule. 

Despite a long history of regulating coal ash in the state, Virginia has experienced environmental damage from poorly-managed legacy CCR units in bordering states.

“This administration simply cannot support any proposed revision by EPA that would weaken the protective standards nationwide for the disposal of coal ash,” said Governor Ralph Northam. “Virginia is committed to ensuring the proper disposal of coal ash to protect human health and the environment. Our ability to enforce these fair and strong standards will be much greater if EPA maintains its commitment to them.”

“It is critical that EPA supports Virginia’s ability to close sites in the most protective manner possible, not revising the CCR rule in ways that would weaken the established EPA framework and minimum standards,” said DEQ Director David Paylor.

In 2016, Virginia incorporated the federal rule into the Virginia Waste Management Regulations which subjects CCR units in Virginia to DEQ oversight and enforcement. Virginia’s regulations also require technical reviews of proposed actions, additional standards, and public participation prior to any final decisions or approvals regarding coal ash units. Virginia is currently working to ensure the proper operation and closure of several units in a manner that will protect groundwater and surface water resources including the evaluation of the potential for excavation of CCR from existing units within the Chesapeake Bay watershed for beneficial use or recycling. 

Prior to finalizing any revisions, EPA should carefully consider, review, and ensure that no revision results in the creation of a less protective standard than previously established, particularly with respect to the protection of groundwater and surface water. 

For more information, please read the comments submitted to EPA by the Commonwealth of Virginia.

During the 2018 General Assembly Session, Governor Northam worked with DEQ and legislators to pass a bill that will lead to a thorough evaluation of how CCR facilities in the Commonwealth should be closed to ensure protection of water quality and public health.

# # #